Games & Hefting

GAMES  Both the main barn door and the stall door were open today as I mucked out their stall. A game started where the lambs would tear into their stall, look and me, run out of the stall and back through the main doors. Then they would turn around and repeat. They did this 5 times (until I told them to think of their thighs, and closed both doors).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HEFTING  Yesterday when I went to put them in for the night, a pole had collapsed and 3 of the lambs were outside the electric netting. Luckily, all 3 stuck closely to the barn.

Hefting;  skill by which sheep are familiarized with and thus stay within one territory on hills or fells, without resorting to fences or walls to pen them in.

MINERALS / SALT  They have a shallow pan of minerals and salt in their stall and each morning it’s full of footprints. Wonder if it helps to keep their feet dry and healthy.

Trying to Find Grain

This week I visited 2 local feed mills and asked about their lamb feed. Interestingly, you are never given a list of actual ingredients, but rather an analysis of the crude protein, fat, etc. Since I’m raising meat lambs to control what I feed my family and friends, I want to know actual ingredients – corn, barley, etc. and I want to know how much of each. Does the feed contain 75% corn, 50%, 25%? And how much filler? Apparently you can contact the actual manufacturer but “they won’t give you their recipe”.

 

 

 

 

 

Drugs

I also learned drugs were common in the feed – specifically Sodium Lasalocid. When I asked why the drug was included in the feed, the seller glanced down at the Ontario Nature logo on my tee shirt and quickly said “it doesn’t stay in their system long!” – which is weird given that it’s in their daily feed. I’m not specifically anti-drugs – just question why they are so commonly added.

Here’s what Lasalocid does: “Lasalocid sodium is an ionophore used as a growth promoting feed additive in cattle and sheep as well as a coccidiostat in ruminants and poultry. Lacalocid sodium is an antibiotic from the group of carboxylic ioniphores produced by Streptomyces… It improves productive performance of animals by acting on the rumen microbiological population. In ruminants it will increase propionic acid production and reduce methane formation in the rumen through a selection of bacteria that produce succinate and ferment lactate. It also inhibits bacteria that produce acetate, butyrate and lactate as end products decreasing the total amount volatile fatty acids (VFA). This improves the conversion of feed energy to growth by 5 – 10%. The occurrence of feedlot bloat and acidosis is also reduced.”

The label includes a warning that if horses are given access to lasalocid sodium it may be fatal. Although our lambs just get 2 cups of grain a day, I’ll pass on the lasalocid sodium.

Transhumance (as JL calls it) – how they are fed

Ontario has its challenges as we can’t put sheep on 100% fresh pasture due to our seasons (although if you just supplement with hay, some consider that “pasture”). Since we are doing 7-day rotational grazing during the day, then bringing them in to the barn at night – we needed a lure. So that means grain. Our vet suggested feeding grain both morning and evening is easier on their system – so they get approximately 2 cups each a day. I started off with purely organic but didn’t like the mixture (too much barley), so switched to Five Star Feeds which don’t contain antibiotics, growth hormones, medications, animal bi-products or GMO’s.  Scary that some do.  They are on their 5th pasture rotation and seem to be putting on weight. Grain should be less than 10% of their daily feed. When our fields fade, we’ll give them second-cut hay.

 Sloan and Max came to visit the sheep. They seemed to like them. I let the lambs into the barn for viewing and the mottled lamb stuck her head into a small, red bucket – and got the bucket stuck on her head. A three stooges routine ensued with Doug and I chasing the red-bucket-headed lamb around the barn.

 

It’s a Learning Thing

The vet came on Monday. We’re keen on avoiding scheduled worming, and because of the rotational grazing, our vet agreed. She did however, vaccinate them against white muscle disease. It was only when Jean-Loup showed up, that we could hold one long enough… you grab the head and sit them on their backend like a dog begging for food.

The next day they seemed “off”. Exhibiting behaviour that I hadn’t see before (tight grouping with their heads hung low under each other’s belly).

And then this morning the male looked like it had a snotty nose which meant a panicked email to the vet.

Later in the day, however, I realized two things… they were grouped tightly together to avoid black flies which are particularly bad right now in that field. And secondly I realized the snotty nosed ram had likely dipped his nose in “shell flour” or Diatomaceous Earth which I had just started using as a natural wormer.

My poor vet.

A Good / Bad Morning

Trying to teach the lambs to just follow us to their new pasture… and it worked this morning (thanks Megan).

 

 

 

 

Once the lambs were in the new pasture, I returned to the barn to turn on the electric netting. Scout was sitting outside the electric netting. Suddenly I heard Scout cry (loudly) and I ran out to find the white lamb tangled in the fencing and the other 3 scattering. Had to run back into the barn to turn off the electric, then try to catch the tangled lamb and untie her. Luckily the rest of them ran into their stall, and eventually the tangled lamb sat quietly while I removed the netting.

I think that the dorset (white lamb – it’s ALWAYS the white lamb) tried to jump the fence and got caught, Scout likely lunged in and got zapped… After all was set right again, I found Scout in the field in front of our home shaking. Took her home and gave her some bacon.

Think the poles for the netting have to be set at an angle to the outside so the top is taut and doesn’t sag.

Re-directing Sheep is Interesting

We have just moved the lambs to new pasture. Since the electric fence is 160 feet long, we can make a square paddock of 40’ x 40’, or 1,600 sqft. 1,600 sqft is large enough for 4 x 50lbs sheep for a period of 6 or 7 days. So we will likely move the sheep on the same day once a week.

Each morning they need to leave their stall and end up in the new pasture. Moving them in increments seems to work best… move them out of the stall into the barn yard, close door to stall, open gate to new pasture, move towards gate, etc… If they find any opening, they seem to take it. And I get now why shepherds have staffs.

This cross has interesting markings (dorset + suffolk). It’s cold and rainy here… so wonder when it rains hard if I should put them back in their stall.

History of a Crook/Staff/Stave/Stick:
A crook, staff or stick has been a shepherd’s multi-purpose tool-of-trade since man first herded sheep. It’s even a religious symbol for clergy to show their responsibility for their flocks. A crook is used as a support for walking over rough terrain, directing sheep movement, catching ewes and lambs around the neck or legs, or a weapon against flock predators. The crook was often hand-made and would make a personal statement about the owner so, according to an elderly Northumberland shepherd, you‘d never criticised a fellow worker’s stick, no matter how ugly it was.

Managed Intensive Rotational Grazing

This is the description of the rotational grazing Jean-loup wants to implement: thegrovestead.com The benefits are: lambs are exposed to more varieties of forage because they cannot simply return to their favorite greens, animals are forced to move and exercise more, fewer parasites build up in the soil, manure is more evenly spread.

The lambs have settled down and are eating hay and grass. We have debated giving grain and have elected to feed a scoop of organic mixed grain each evening as enticement into the barn (which they love) – but stick to hay now, then full pasture, then second-cut hay once the pasture runs out in the fall.

They have quickly learned to avoid the electric netting, although the dorset has tested it at least 3 times.

The ear tags are so the animals can be traced back to their originating farm.

Escape

We had the lambs for less than 4 hours before they escaped. JL and I had set up electric netting but also used some wooden rail fencing to initially contain them in the barn yard. Thought it looked quite secure, but when I came back to put them in at night – I couldn’t find them anywhere (was stunned!). Enlisted the help of neighbour Becky (to check the roads), Doug and JL. The lambs were found in a back pasture about an acre away.

Initially they came toward me (as if I represented safety)… I even recorded their baaaah on my iphone hoping to entice them. But, then they were off.

They travel in a tight bunch so once located, it turned out to be fairly easy to direct them back to the barn – nice slow movements.

JL and I spent the next day improving the electric netting.

Running away from me…

Lamb Pick Up

Today Jean-loup and I went to pick up the lambs at Rockwood Tree Farm & Timber Frame Houses & lamb farm. Brad Moran wears a lot of hats. Coyotes have been a problem for Brad’s flock so he has two guard dogs, a Maremma (in training) and a Great Pyrenees. He thought we should bring the lambs in to the barn each night.

We brought home 4 lambs approximately 50 pounds each (a dorset, a suffolk, and 2 mixtures). One ram and 3 ewes. Only his ewes have docked tails.

They travelled well.  Doug was here to help unload them.  We will feed them hay until the pasture is ready.  They seemed nervous and I think it will take a few days for them to settle in.

 

 

 

 

We introduced Scout to the lambs, only to discover Scout was a little frightened of them (a disappointment to the Aussie Shepherd side of her).  The lambs are a little too cute for comfort.